US' old warships sailing through Taiwan Straits can't deter PLA at all, only confirms US' hostility toward China's reunification
Published: Aug 28, 2022 06:35 PM
The air force and naval aviation corps of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) fly warplanes to conduct operations around the Taiwan Island, Aug 4, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

The air force and naval aviation corps of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) fly warplanes to conduct operations around the Taiwan Island, Aug 4, 2022. Photo:Xinhua

The US on Sunday, more than 20 days after the PLA's massive military drills encircled Taiwan island to respond to the provocative visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island, sent two Ticonderoga-class cruisers to sail through Taiwan Straits, with the PLA announcing that the entire passage of the US warships have been monitored and everything is under control.

The PLA Eastern Theater Command Spokesperson Shi Yi said in a statement on Sunday that "the theater command's troops keep high alert and are fully prepared to crackdown any provocation anytime."

According to Voice of America, the US Navy is sailing two warships through the Taiwan Straits on Sunday, in the first such transit publicized since Pelosi visited Taiwan earlier in August. The USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville are conducting a routine transit, the US 7th Fleet said. 

The US Navy has conducted similar actions many times in the past with the aim to implement so-called "freedom of navigation" in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, while as long as the US vessels follow the rules of "innocent passage" to keep low profile and pose no harm, turn off weapons and fire-control radar system, and bring no actual threat to China's security, the PLA would just follow and monitor, said experts, noting that there is no big difference this time as the US also doesn't want to put its old warships in danger.

"During wartime, the US warships, whether cruisers, destroyers or even aircraft carriers, can't survive in the Taiwan Straits if they interfere in the reunification process with force, because they are too close to the mainland and can't survive the saturation attacks launched by the PLA's land-based missiles. So if the US Navy wants to deter the PLA, sailing through the Taiwan Straits is actually pointless and meaningless," said Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentators.

In the past, the US normally sends Arleigh Burke class destroyers, which are smaller than Ticonderoga-class cruisers, to conduct such mission, but this time it sent two cruisers, so it proves that the US is fully aware of and fear of the PLA's capability so that it needs two warships to accompany with each other to embolden themselves, said analysts.

But Ticonderoga-class cruiser is a very old warship, and the PLA's Type 055 is much more advanced, Song noted, adding that even sending two cruisers this time, the US still can't intimidate China, only makes its move look more like a show to comfort the secessionist Taiwan authorities who pin great hope on the US to provide protection.

By making such provocation in the region, the US just repeatedly proves that the US is the biggest and the most hostile external force that intends to interrupt China's reunification process, and the US doesn't want to see China reunified, so that the PLA will be more direct in training and preparing for potential conflict with the US in the future once China is forced to launch operation to solve the Taiwan question, experts said. 

US dilemma 

When the PLA conducted a series of military drills that encircled Taiwan island earlier this month, the US side said it will keep the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to operate in the region. But the carrier has kept its distance from Taiwan Straits and has been operating in the area close to Japan in previous weeks, which shows that it's reluctant to put itself in danger for provoking China while also wants to convince US allies and the secessionist Taiwan authorities that the US won't run away when the PLA conducts military drills, analysts said. 

Some observes used to believe that the US might send USS Ronald Reagan to sail through the Straits, but eventually it sent two old cruisers. Song said this also proves that Washington doesn't want to provoke China too much with an unnecessary high profile, and it's restrained to avoid miscalculation, especially after China suspended some communication channels with the US military.   

Lü Xiang, an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Sunday, "to be honest, sending warships to sail through the Taiwan Straits following the rules of innocent passage is not even a provocation from military perspective, it's just a pointless showcase with provocative attitude. The US is now very carefully calculating the risks and gains of making such showcase."

But such actions are making regional countries and even US allies more and more concerned, as they can see it clearly that from Pelosi's visit to the latest passage of US warships, it's always the US that keeps on intensifying the situation, while China is the one that's forced to respond.

More and more countries in the international community will realize that the US is the real trouble-maker that creates barriers to the peaceful solution of the Taiwan question, as many of China's neighboring countries are strongly concerned over the possible military conflicts between China and the US, a Beijing-based expert on US-China relations told the Global Times on condition of anonymity

Amid the tensions around the island of Taiwan, former US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton has a characteristically blunt message. "We ought to be clear to China that we consider Taiwan an independent country … I think the doctrine of strategic ambiguity [towards Taiwan] has served its purpose," he told ABC RN's Between The Lines during a visit to Australia.

He believes that by providing a "full diplomatic recognition" to the Taiwan authorities, the US could effectively deter China to abandon the reunification. Chinese analysts said Bolton is an extremist and even Trump can't get along with him, so his crazy and dangerous opinion won't be accepted by the Washington decision-makers.

"In the future, if any president of the US accepts Bolton's advice, it would be actually an act to totally abandon Taiwan because China will take actions to reunify the island immediately, and it's an act to overthrow China-US relations with catastrophic consequences. So if the US leaders don't lose their mind, people like Bolton will just remain hawkish extremists with no meaningful influence, and US' strategic ambiguity on the Taiwan question will remain until the day China realizes reunification," Lü noted.   

Some radical US strategists are overly confident about US' strength and they believe that the US can fight two wars in Ukraine and the island of Taiwan to trap and defeat Russia and China at the same time, but the decision-makers in the White House and the military commanders at the Pentagon understand that such arrogant thought is totally nonsense, and this is why Washington is now very anxious about China's development and military preparation on the matter, as they know China has been provoked and has abandoned all illusion over the US, and will sooner or later solve the Taiwan question and they can't find the way to stop China, experts noted.